Seattle, Wash. – It would have been the largest comeback in WNBA history.
Elena Delle Donne made sure it stayed “would have.”
After the Storm erased a 24-point halftime deficit, a three-pointer by Sue Bird tied the game at 88 with less than 20 seconds to play.
Those final seconds belonged to the Delaware product.
With Breanna Stewart draped on her, Delle Donne created just enough separation to make the game-winning 3-pointer to cap her game-high 35, in a 91-88 victory over the Storm at Key Arena.
Delle Donne also had 11 rebounds, and crossed the 2,000-point career mark barrier. Cappie Pondexter and Cheyenne Parker each finished with 15 points, while Stewart and Bird led the Storm with 22 and 24, respectively. Jewell Loyd had her first double-double of the year with 12 points and 10 assists.
Delle Donne said she read the final play of the game.
“I knew the play was going to get me in that position, and I wanted to make sure the clock went down enough where they wouldn’t be able to run a play if we scored or if we missed,” she said. “I just felt confident, was able to get into a rhythm, let it fly and it felt great to see it go in, because we really needed that win.”
The finish was a heartbreaking end for Seattle (8-14), who clawed back from a gigantic early hole. Chicago (10-12) started the night making 15-of-22 shots in the first quarter (6-of-8 from 3-point range) while grabbing the game’s first eight rebounds en route to a 22-point lead after 10 minutes.
By halftime, the Chicago lead was 24.
“You have to give them credit they came out on fire,” Bird said. “It felt like they didn’t miss … but that’s up to us, we have to not get off to slow starts like that, not dig ourselves a hole, because as far as the comeback goes, that was just us playing our game, and at the beginning we didn’t.”
Storm coach Jenny Boucek said that in the locker room, the conversation was about the energy the team needed to play with.
“I told them at halftime I couldn’t even adjust anything technically until we started getting the energy that we need to play with,” she said. “We started the game really flat, and let them get comfortable, let them get hot, and then we had a huge hole that we had to try and dig our way out of.”
And dig they did.
Seattle doubled-up Chicago in the third to make it just a 10-point game heading into the fourth. And time and again, the Storm would cut the gap to single digits in the early minutes of the final quarter, but Chicago got its lead back to 15 with 5:38 to go.
At the 3:35 mark, a pair of Delle Donne free throws put the lead to 12. That’s when Seattle caught fire, scoring 14 of the game’s next 16 points, capped by the 3-pointer by Bird to tie the game.
Then, it came down to Delle Donne.
Off the inbounds, matched one-on-one with Stewart, she dribbled around outside the arc, and with a hand in her face, nailed what would be the game winning three-pointer with one second to play.
Chicago coach Pokey Chatman was very pleased with the reigning MVP.
“Not just the last shot, but I told Elena she was excellent in her decision making – when to attack the basket, when to pull up for the mid-range and when to spot up,” Chatman said. “Sometimes when you’re tired you don’t think, but I thought she played extremely well on both ends of the floor.”
Boucek said Seattle’s loss stemmed from several issues.
“It wasn’t about that play,” she said. “When you’re at the end of a close game, it comes down to players making plays, that’s just what it comes down to, but if we had taken care of our business early like we needed to, I don’t know that it would have come down to one shot.”
While the end result wasn’t what she wanted, Stewart liked what her team was able to do in the final 20 minutes.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “It was fun to compete like that, and that’s what we want to do every single night, is not be down 30 to compete, but be in the game at the end.”
With the loss, Seattle drops one game back of Washington in the loss column for the eighth and final playoff spot, while Chicago sits tied for fifth with Indiana.
The Storm are back at Key Arena for a Kids Day matinee against San Antonio on Wednesday at noon. It’s their final home game before the Olympic break.
- Former Storm great Betty Lennox, who took home WNBA Finals MVP honors in 2004, was on hand, along with former Storm forward Suzy Batkovic-Brown, and Sonics sharpshooter “Downtown” Freddie Brown.
- Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Monica Wright did not play for the fourth straight game, and the sixth time in the last seven. Ramu Tokashiki sat out for the first time this year, while Jenna O’Hea and Abby Bishop also picked up DNPs as Seattle ran an eight-player rotation all night.
- Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis continued her stretch of strong outings, tying a season-high with 12 points.
- Krystal Thomas had a season-high seven points and six rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench for Seattle.
- Jewell Loyd’s 10 assists were a career-high for the Notre Dame product.
- Attendance: 5,358